Local union officials say they are upset but not surprised by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to side with Illinois state worker Mark Janus in the controversial Janus vs. AFSCME case.
“Our organization has been preparing for this outcome and will continue to fight for our members to collectively bargain for a fair return on their work,” said Kerri Gallagher, director of the Dunmore-based AFSCME District Council 87, in an e-mail to the Times Leader.
The organization represents over 5,000 state, county and local government employees working in various departments in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
According to the ruling, public employee unions in 22 states, including Pennsylvania, will not be able to collect fees from non-members to cover the costs of collective bargaining.
“For us, this decision is disappointing, but it’s not unexpected,” said Dave Broderic, a Pennsylvania State Education Association representative based in Harrisburg.
PSEA is made up of more than 1,000 regional associations and teachers unions all over the state, including the Dallas Education Association and the Wilkes-Barre Area Education Association.
Even though PSEA officials are disappointed by the decision, Broderic does not think that it will have a big financial impact on operations and the ability to provide services, because the organization has a total of 181,000 members, but only 6,500 non-members who formerly paid fair share fees.
“The vast majority of our local associations have very very few non-members who are fair share fee payers and some have none at all,” he explained.
Wyoming Valley West Education Association and the Crestwood School District Teachers Union are examples of local public sector unions that have zero non-members who pay fair share fees.
Even then, Crestwood Teachers Union President Bill Kane still sees the Supreme Court’s ruling as an attack on all unions and the middle class as a whole.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “We see this as a move by conservatives to try to privatize the public education system.”
Supporters of Janus are applauding the decision as a protection of first amendment rights, arguing that that the payment of agency fees by non- members in public sector unions go toward political activities such as lobbying and elections.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court finally acknowledged what we’ve known all along: that many Pennsylvania public sector employees have been forced to live under the yoke of public sector unions and pay their hard-earned money into organizations they neither wish to support nor belong to,” said Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Val DiGiorgio in a statement.
Dr. Michael Komorek, president of the Wilkes-Barre Area Education Association, disagrees.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, most members do not view unionism as a political issue, but as means to ensure job quality and worker protection,” he said in an e-mail.
Local Democrats who support unions also reacted to the decision on social media.
If all workers benefit, it is only right that everyone contributes a fair share fee. This effort in the courts was nothing more than a well-funded attempt by corporate billionaires to dismantle unions.— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) June 27, 2018
Nothing was more important to the development of the middle class than America’s labor movement. After this week’s #Janus decision undermined workers’ rights, it’s more important than ever that we give Americans #ABetterDeal. pic.twitter.com/l3WogkDOU1— Matt Cartwright (@RepCartwright) June 30, 2018